What Causes B12 Deficiency?

In a recent study, researchers found that 68 percent of vegetarians and 83% of vegans were vitamin B12 deficient.  Our bodies need vitamin B12 to make red blood cells, nerves, DNA and carry out other important functions, but proper absorption of vitamin B12 can be a tricky process. Even if you eat plenty of meat, poultry, dairy, and other animal products that contain B12, you can meet with absorption obstacles due to medication, disease,mal-absorption and age.

Diet

B12 is naturally found in animal protein such as eggs, meat, and milk. Since vegetarians may not get enough animal protein, and vegans don’t get any at all, many can suffer from a B12 deficiency. This can result in fatigue, weakness, moodiness, memory loss, anemia and other nervous system conditions. Regular injections of vitamin B12 can counteract these effects.

Diabetes

If you have type 2 diabetes and take the medication Metformin, you are at a high risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. Not only that, but you are more likely to experience peripheral neuropathy (numbness, pain, tingling in hands and feet) when a vitamin B12 deficiency exists.

Medication

Low hydrochloric acid in the stomach can lead to B12 deficiency.  Chronic use of prescription and non-prescription acid blockers (like Prilosec) can aggravate this condition. Low hydrochloric acid levels are also common in people over 60 years old. Vitamin B12 shots can bypass this complication by entering directly into the muscle and avoiding the digestive system.

Age

As you age, your body produces less stomach acid which is needed to help break down and absorb vitamin B12 in your digestive tract. Without proper absorption, a B12 deficiency is likely to occur resulting in symptoms ranging from fatigue and memory loss to permanent nerve damage.

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey estimated that 3.2% of adults over the age of 50 have a seriously low B12 level, and up to 20% may have a borderline deficiency. In fact, according to Chris Kessner L. Ac, the number may be higher than that. He cited a Tufts University study that suggested 40% of people between the ages of 26 and 83 have B12 levels in the low normal range—a range at which many experience neurological symptoms.

A main cause of vitamin B12 defiency in those that have plenty in their diet, is malabsorption.  Surgery to your stomach or small intestine (like gastric bypass surgery), abnormal bacterial growth in your small intestine, or diseases such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease can interfere with the absorption of vitamin B12 in your small intestine. (WebMd.com)

Weight Loss Sugery

Gastric bypass surgery has become of the most popular methods for extreme weightloss (MayoClinic.com). However, when part of the stomach and small intestine are removed, there is a smaller surface area for digestions and absorption of nutrients from food.  In addition, gastric bypass surgery can cause a loss of cells that are responsible for secreting stomach acid and intrinsic factor—both essential for  proper absorption (Livestrong.com).  A vitamin B12 injection can avoid mal-absorption in stomach surgery patients because it avoids the digestive tract by going straight into the muscle.

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